Published Mar 12, 2013Structurally, The Powerpuff Girls Movie takes the route of a traditional superhero origin story, establishing a moral divide between good and evil when a laboratory accident involving a monkey and some mystery fluid inadvertently creates the three powerpuff girls. While Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup please their ersatz father—a world-wearied professor looking to enact street vengeance on the increasingly ubiquitous criminal element—the monkey, whose brain has protruded out of his skull, goes into hiding, perceived as a freak.
Rather than develop the story on the assumption that those with good intentions are immediately cohesive and collaborative with an existing cultural ethos, director Craig McCracken's satirical animated comedy focuses on the incongruity of "special" people functioning in society.
Naively, Professor Utonium enlists the girls in school, proud of their superhuman powers, ability to fly and laser eyes. But once they attempt to integrate with normal children, their literal interpretation of social signifiers and customs leaves the school decimated and the city brutalized after a game of tag goes awry.
Interestingly, the thematic trajectory of this action-packed odyssey of weirdness is that of social critique. Instead of focusing on the nature of good and evil, McCracken acknowledges the inherent hypocrisy of a world that claims to reward and value those that are special, while actually shunning them for demonstrating difference.
The resulting anarchic nefarious plot that unfolds—Mojo jojo (the evil monkey) bonds with the girls over social dysphoria and convinces them to help him build an experimental facility—suggests that world domination and hostile acts are ultimately created by a world incapable of interpreting or understanding difference.
While the climactic sequence involving flying monkeys spitting on everyone and city-wide carnage is entertaining on a visceral level, the adult subtext about a dysfunctional status quo is both refreshing and hilarious in a cerebral capacity. It's sort of shocking that a seemingly insipid animated filler movie is as entertaining and clever as it is.
The Powerpuff Girls Movie screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on March 13th, 2013 at 1pm as part of the Comic Book Heroes retrospective. (Warner)